Perhaps you have wondered why we anonymize ourselves on TheoNerds with our gamer tags.
A better question to ask is, why do so many people freely disclose the most intimate details about themselves with strangers on the internet?
Your online identity is the most valuable asset of your online use. Acquiring this data is exactly how Facebook became a billion dollar corporation. In the wrong hands, your identity can be used to take bank loans out in your name, rent cars in your name, claim government benefits, receive medical treatment, or even commit heinous crimes in your name.
Your online identity can also be used to target you for advertising or sinister government operations.
Broadcasting your real identity was not a common practice at the inception of the web. This was, no doubt, popularized by the growth of social media sites such as MySpace and eventually Facebook, who mandated it to use their services.
So the question we’re asking is, does Scripture give you reasons to anonymize yourself online?
Jesus Encrypted His Communications
Jesus promised that His followers would not be greater than Him, or better received. In fact, we should expect to suffer for His great name (Matthew 10:24-26). He commands us to walk a narrow and difficult path (Matthew 7:13-14), bearing a cross (Matthew 16:24-26).
Knowing this outcome of following Christ, we can learn from how He avoided harm before His crucifixion. Jesus knew of His enemy’s tactics and advances (Luke 20:23). It is highly probably that the reason why the testimonies of Christ’s adversaries were so muddled was due to His practice of speaking in parables (John 11:53-54, Matthew 21:44-46, Mark 14:55-60), alongside having done nothing worthy of death.
Likewise, end-to-end encryption with onion routing (three extra layers of encryption – see Session) allows for direct and private communication with specific people online.
Virtual Private Network
Jesus also masked His public identity by traveling at all times with 12 men. Judas had to betray Jesus with a kiss to distinguish Him from the other disciples (Mark 14:44). No doubt, this practice allowed Jesus to easily escape when endangered (John 8:58-59, John 10:39).
The modern online equivalent of this would be to use a VPN which masks your IP or internet address.
Christians must be aware of opposition to Christ online through cancel culture when standing for righteousness. The threat of being shadow banned, deplatformed, or retrenched is a reality for every Christian online today.
TheoNerds is a group of international believers, with some of our contributors living in countries that are very hostile to Christianity. This hostility is now reaching the USA.
Andrew Torba, creator of Gab, is one such example of online hatred towards US Christians. He was recently blacklisted by many service providers, including banks, and even payment providers like Visa, PayPal and Stripe.
Through utilizing anonymity online, you can mitigate or slow down this type of persecution.
Lessons From King Hezekiah
Even if you feel there is no threat to you at this present time, this does not mean that it will not come in the future.
In the days of Isaiah the prophet, King Hezekiah was miraculously healed from a boil that threatened to take his life and was graciously granted 15 years to his lifespan (Isaiah 38).
Upon hearing the news of his recovery, the King of Babylon sent an envoy to encourage him and give him gifts- a welcomed and friendly gesture. Upon welcoming the Babylonian envoy, Hezekiah showed them every intimate detail of his life, including his vast fortune and the prosperity of Israel (Isaiah 39).
Word of this was brought back to the King of Babylon, who now had motive to invade Israel and carry off their precious vessels to Babylon.
This is an example in Scripture of how disclosed private information can later be used against you. We are commanded to live a peaceable and quite life, minding our own business (1 Timothy 2:1-2, 1 Thessalonians 4:11).
You must also realize that technology is developing, the concept of your online videos being used as material for deep fakes would have seemed absurd a decade ago.
Christians should never disclose the following information online:
- Real name
- Place of work
Examine your social media posts and see if you are revealing sensitive information that could leave you and your family vulnerable. Consider anonymizing yourself today so that you don’t unnecessarily expose yourself or your family to an existing or future threat.
The Christian Celebrity Problem
In our Christian culture, there is a serious problem of personality obsession. Think about all the quotes, sermons and books from “celebrity” Christians that are shared and admired.
Christian celebrities will be less inclined to anonymize themselves online as their means of selling products is connected with their personal identity.
The internet has been pervasive in fostering this celebrity culture within the Church. However, Christians must reject this unbiblical and boarder-line idolatrous practice. We must decrease so that God can increase (John 3:30). It is important that we do not get in the way or become the focus of His work.
There is a Chinese proverb that states:
“He is a fool who admires the finger of one pointing to the moon.”
God does not share His glory (Isaiah 42:8), and we should never seek it for ourselves (Luke 17:10). If you have online influence, anonymity will help you from being recognized as an online Christian personality and keep Jesus as the focus.
Heed your King’s call to meekness (Matthew 5:5), lest we be like the hypocrites Jesus warned about who loved their names mentioned in public and desired the best seats at conferences (Matthew 23:5-7).
Wisdom & Courage
In the scriptures we are told that the righteous are bold as a lion (Proverbs 28:1), however, we are also told that a prudent man foresees evil and hides himself (Proverbs 22:3).
There is an opinion among some that Gospel witness must always be loud and proud otherwise we exhibit compromise and cowardice.
However, the Gospel is a form of spiritual warfare (Ephesians 6:10-20), and like any art of war there are times for obvious tactics and times for discrete tactics.
Courage is indeed a characteristic of the Christian (Revelation 21:8), but so is wisdom. To be cunning like a serpent requires the blend of boldness and discretion (Matthew 10:16).
Should we assume that our brother and sisters in China, for example, who are underground, are cowards for concealing their good works?
Learning from the examples of the persecuted Church throughout history can help us understand the importance of balancing courage with discretion while trusting God in all circumstances.
Richard Wurmbrand, who was tortured in an underground prison by communists for 15 years, detailed his anonymized identity living under persecution in Romania:
“Together with others, I began an underground work. Outwardly I had a very respectable position—pastor of the Norwegian Lutheran Mission—that served as a cover for my real underground work. At the same time I represented the World Council of Churches in Romania. (In Romania we had not the slightest idea that this organization would ever cooperate with the Communists. At that time in our country it did nothing but relief work.) These two titles gave me a very good standing before the authorities, who did not know of my underground work.” -Richard Warmbrund, Tortured For Christ
For Corrie Ten Boom and her family, it was a matter of life and death to conceal their courageous operation of housing Jews and smuggling them off to safety. When they were betrayed, Corrie and her family suffered greatly, something of which God later used for His great glory.
William Tyndale, likewise, went into hiding so that he could continue his translation of the Bible into English. He used the black market (much like the dark web, TOR) to smuggle Bibles into England.
Similarly, when Paul uncovered a conspiracy that sought to do him harm, he did not publicize to his enemies that he knew of their evil plot to end his life. This aided the effectiveness of his private military escort (Acts 23:11-31).
Anonymizing yourself online will actually increase your boldness to speak for righteousness through mitigating the threat of imprisonment or harm to you and your family due to an exposed identity.
You Need To Understand The Internet
All online communications can be traced back to your physical location via your IP, your location relative to routers via WiFi triangulation, mobile location tracking, and a host of other means. World governments have already started permanently storing all your personal information and have profiled you.
For the same reasons that you send private letters in sealed envelopes and not on postcards, you lock your door at night instead of leaving it open, you use numbers for your home address instead of your real name, you keep your bank details secret, and a host of other privacy measures, you too must anonymize your online identity.
It’s simply best practice on a practical level to use end-to-end encryption via Session or OpenPGP via email, mask your IPs with VPNs, use TOR, and explore anti-backdoor operating systems such as QubesOS or PureOS.
As Big Tech continues to censor dissenting views, it is imperative that you make use of the privacy information we share on TheoNerds.
No Weapon Formed Against You Shall Prosper
Ultimately, your confidence should not be in your ability to rightly anonymize yourself online, but in God who controls all things.
Be encouraged that despite severe hardships, God has always sustained His people and worked out sufferings for their good and His glory.
You should keep this in mind should you decide to start concealing your online identity.
All the nations are as nothing before Him,
They are regarded by Him as less than nothing and meaningless. -Isaiah 40:17
It is important that you don’t fear persecution and foolishly abandon your duty and commission. It is also of equal importance that you don’t romanticize persecution, assume you will stand in the day of evil and foolishly do nothing to prepare.
We wait for the day when our King returns to wipe every tear from our eyes (Revelation 21:4) and comfort those who mourn now (Matthew 5:4).